A team with one rider nailed for a doping violation is not news. That’s expectation, a given, a team without a suspended rider on the roster is like a team without a mechanic. Now if two riders are caught, then you have a story. That gets us into the area of a possible team sanctioned doping program. Exciting stuff with hotel raids, bus searches and midnight interrogations. But three riders hit with positive dope tests — on the same team — now you’re going BIG. Liberty Seguros, our hats off for raising the bar.
The winner of the Tour of Portugal, Nuno Ribeiro — we’re going to call him Nono Ribeiro — was caught along with two team-mates. Ribeiro, Isidro Nozal and Hector Guerra all tested positive for EPO-CERA. Which is that blood booster that allows you to go up steep mountains like a race car — thus gaining an unfair advantage on honest, hard-pedaling racers who take nothing but water and stale granola bars.
Team sponsor Liberty Seguros, an insurance company, did a quick risk analysis and pulled the plug. “It is with great sadness that we learned of this situation,” said Jose Antonion de Sousa, CEO of Liberty Seguros. “However, Liberty Seguros is guided by honesty, accuracy and ethical behavior – we can never allow such a situation.” We applaud this decision and have cancelled our State Farm policy in favor of signing up with de Sousa.
We suspect the UCI will be talking with team manager Vito Paulo Branco about his possible involvement in the doping cases. But do not expect the Spanish Federation to hand out too much punishment. They’re too busy protecting favorite son Alejandro Valverde and fighting his two-year doping ban from the Italian Olympic Committee.
Three doping positives in one team. Wow, the doping hat-trick.